FRIDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- While football helmets don't
prevent concussions, good helmet fit might help reduce loss of
consciousness that can follow a blow to the head, a new study
Expensive, high-tech helmets with air-lining systems aren't much
better than vintage "leatherheads" for preventing concussions, the
"The occurrence of concussion has been constant for the past 30 years: whether it was a leather helmet, whether it was a plastic helmet with web suspension, whether it was a plastic helmet with foam, or one with the new combination air cells and padding," said study author Dr. Joseph Torg, an adjunct professor of orthopedic surgery at Temple University in Philadelphia.
The researchers looked at data from the U.S. National High
School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance System from 2005 to 2009.
Of the nearly 1,400 kids who sustained a concussion, 44 lost
consciousness and 267 experienced amnesia.
Injury reports addressed helmet fit, type of inner-helmet
padding and whether the helmet was new or reconditioned.
"Youngsters who had a concussion, if the helmet fit, they had 82 percent less chance of loss of consciousness," Torg said. "Helmets -- and advanced helmet technology -- do not prevent against concussions or the severe intracranial injuries of hemorrhage [bleeding] and brain swelling."
The researchers also analyzed previous studies comparing types
Older, reconditioned helmets did as well as new helmets. But
unpublished data suggested that helmets with air-bladder linings
might be a risk factor, because they tend to leak and can deflate
if not maintained properly.
Wendy Norris, head athletic trainer at DeMatha Catholic High
School in Hyattsville, Md., said her responsibility for player
health includes gear safety, and it's standard practice to inspect
helmets before each game.
"We have helmets certified every year, and the day before games we always check them to make sure they're fitting well," said Norris, a certified athletic trainer. "It's an ongoing process. Sometimes I'll see somebody on the field and say, 'Hmm, I don't like how that looks.' And we adjust it."
Higher-tech helmets with improved air-cell systems cost about
$250 to $350 each, Norris said. An advantage is that company
representatives come out to the schools and educate trainers and
coaches on proper fit.
Torg said the big question is, beyond helmets, what sets apart
the four to six football players who suffer catastrophic injuries
from concussion each year?
"Our thesis: there's a combination of factors that predisposes those small numbers of youngsters," he said. The factors are mostly unidentified, he added, noting they could be congenital, anatomic, or even related to air temperature.
"A kid who has a severe concussion has a number of predisposing factors, one of which is probably a helmet that doesn't fit," Torg said. "If you remove that component, then maybe the problem is solved."
Torg's study was presented at this month's annual meeting of the
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine in San
Athletic trainer Norris suggested some "easy landmarks that
parents can look for," with helmet fit:
If you think something's wrong, ask the trainer or the coach,
Players also have a role, the trainer stressed.
"We tell them for sure not to customize the helmet in any way," Norris said. "A lot of them want to cut the forehead pads or cut the cheek pads to make them thinner. We definitely discourage that."
And, she added, "they should also have their coaches check their
helmets at least every week or two weeks, just to make sure
The data and conclusions of research presented at medical
meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to
concussion in sports.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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